So You Want to Be a Chief Nursing Officer?

Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS


March 26, 2015

In This Article

Nursing and Leadership

Leadership comes with the territory in nursing. After a nurse successfully navigates the first few years of a nursing career, he or she generally has the confidence to assume a leadership role that can take many different forms—leading a multidisciplinary care team on behalf of a complex patient, chairing a department-level committee, or taking on the role of charge nurse within the unit. These leadership responsibilities are viewed by most nurses as simply part of the job of a frontline professional nurse.

In the day-to-day course of patient care, nurses practice and develop their leadership skills. This so-called "leadership at the bedside" is the fount of emerging leaders in nursing.

Although being a strong and successful leader makes one a better nurse, not every nurse considers him or herself to be "cut out" for leadership. Some nurses will serve as somewhat reluctant leaders when the need arises but retreat to the bedside as quickly as possible, with no desire whatsoever to climb the ladder of administration. Other nurses seek leadership opportunities outside of the healthcare facility by actively participating in professional organizations, chairing committees, or holding executive offices. Nurses in academia assume the mantle of many different leadership roles, both in and out of the classroom.

Nursing needs leaders. As the largest group of healthcare providers in almost every healthcare setting, the profession must cultivate leaders from within its ranks or risk being led by someone else. Fortunately, the early experiences of being a leader aren't anathema to all nurses. Many nurses thrive in the role of leader, and if they are given the right opportunities and support, they will rise to ever greater leadership challenges.


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